Neurobiology of PTSD: From Brain to Mind

Neurobiology of PTSD: From Brain to Mind

Israel Liberzon and Kerry Ressler

Print publication date: Jul 2016

ISBN: 9780190215422

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a maladaptive and debilitating psychiatric disorder characterized by an extreme sense of fear at the time of trauma occurrence, with characteristic re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal symptoms in the months and years following the trauma. PTSD can occur in up to 25% of subjects who have experienced severe psychological trauma, such as combat veterans, refugees, and assault victims. Why are some people resilient, whereas others develop debilitating PTSD? Notably, PTSD is among the most likely of psychiatric disorders to be understood from the perspective of environmental influences interacting with genetic vulnerability, since diagnosis requires a specific, highly traumatizing, fear-evoking experience. In addition, a large amount of evidence now supports a model in which PTSD can be viewed, in part, as a disorder of fear dysregulation. This is particularly exciting because the neural circuitry underlying fear behavior in mammals is among the most well-understood behavioral circuits in neuroscience. Further, the study of fear behavior and its underlying circuitry has led to rapid progress in understanding learning and memory processes. By combining molecular-genetic approaches with a mechanistic understanding of fear circuitry, great progress is possible in the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of PTSD. This book examines the basic neural mechanisms that mediate complex responses and adaptations to psychological trauma; it describes what is currently known about how these biological processes are impaired in individuals with PTSD, and how environmental exposure to trauma interacts with the brain to create the syndrome of PTSD.